New Study Reveals 4 Elements That Keep Older Adults Minds Sharp

June 11, 2009 at 10:24 am Leave a comment

"Senior Crossing" by chelle2008 on Stock.Xchng The evidence just keeps piling up: our lifestyle choices have a large impact on how well our brains age.

A just-published study funded by the National Institutes of Health  followed 2,500 people in their 70s for 8years, and frequently tested their cognitive functions.  Over the course of the study,  53% of the participants showed the expected age-related declines, and 16% developed major cognitive difficulties.

But the remaining 30% either had no change in their mental functions, or they actually improved during the study.

The researchers set out to look for possible explanations, and the primary differences between the groups boiled down to 4 lifestyle elements :

  1. Exercise – Participants who exercised a minimum of once a week, at moderate activity levels, were 30% more likely to fall into the group that stayed mentally sharp.
  2. Education – Participants who had at least a high school education were 3 times as likely to maintain their cognitive functions, and literacy levels seemed especially key:  Those with a 9th grade reading level were 5 times as likely to avoid a mental decline than those with lower literacy levels.
  3. Social Connection – those who avoided isolation by living with someone, volunteering or working were 24% more likely to keep their minds sharp.
  4. Smoking – Non-smokers were twice as likely to be in the group that maintained their cognitive function without decline.

The researchers acknowledged that other factors including genetics were also involved, but encouraged by the evidence that the risks of dementia and other declines are so heavily influenced by factors within our control.  Another interesting note?  Different factors seemed to be involved between maintaining cognitive function in general, and the severity of the decline – and more research is needed to clarify the difference.

Each of the factors listed above have also been supported by other findings:  The positive impact of exercise on the brain is well documented, the link between education and  a lowered risk of Alzheimer’s has been suggested by several studies as has social activity – and smoking is known to negatively affect the brain’s ability to repair damage.

Overall, the study boils down to what so many experts have been saying:  healthy lifestyles and well-developed, active minds help to protect cognitive functions throughout our lives,  and there are active, simple steps we can take to prevent, slow or minimize the effects of aging on the brain.

Entry filed under: Supporting Science & Medicine. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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About This Blog

A healthy mind and brain is key to a healthy, active life. Come along for the ride as we explore the basics of brain health, with topics including:
  • Physical Exercise
  • Cognitive Training
  • Stress Management
  • Social Interaction
  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • A Sense of Purpose & Connection
Authored by Tori Deaux
Sponsored by Dakim Brain Fitness



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